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The Definitive 1950s Reading Challenge
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DrNefario
Posted 2015-01-05 1:53 PM (#9162)
Subject: The Definitive 1950s Reading Challenge
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This is the discussion thread for the Definitive 1950s Reading Challenge, to read a book from each year of the Defining Books of the 1950s list in chronological order.
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jwharris28
Posted 2015-01-05 7:47 PM (#9175 - in reply to #9162)
Subject: RE: The Definitive 1950s Reading Challenge
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I think I'll join you. I'm Jim Harris, who created the list at my blog. I've been rereading these old science fiction books since 2002 when I joined Audible.com and started rereading my favorites by listening. I recently bought an audio edition of The Man Who Sold the Moon, but I'm also tempted by The Martian Chronicles which I bought awhile back but haven't listened to yet. I'm also in the middle of eye-ball reading The Voyage of the Space Beagle.

Do I pick a book and then read it, or read it and then selected it?

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daxxh
Posted 2015-01-05 9:33 PM (#9177 - in reply to #9175)
Subject: Re: The Definitive 1950s Reading Challenge
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I may join this challenge. I noticed when looking through the 1950s books that I have at least one book from every year on my TBR pile. So much for not signing up for too many challenges this year.
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DrNefario
Posted 2015-01-06 4:52 AM (#9185 - in reply to #9175)
Subject: RE: The Definitive 1950s Reading Challenge
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jwharris28 - 2015-01-06 1:47 AM

Do I pick a book and then read it, or read it and then selected it?


I'd say that you are free to change your mind until you've finished reading a book.

I've pencilled in Galactic Patrol for 1950 because it's the only unread book I already own, but I'd really like to read Martian Chronicles, too, since it's one of the headliners and an inexplicable gap in my background. Although I did see the TV version in the 80s. I won't let that put me off. (Actually I can't remember a single thing about it.)
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DrNefario
Posted 2015-01-06 4:54 AM (#9186 - in reply to #9177)
Subject: Re: The Definitive 1950s Reading Challenge
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daxxh - 2015-01-06 3:33 AM

I may join this challenge. I noticed when looking through the 1950s books that I have at least one book from every year on my TBR pile. So much for not signing up for too many challenges this year.

It does run until December 2016. Honestly I'd have made it open-ended if there was an option for that.
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illegible_scribble
Posted 2015-01-06 11:22 PM (#9192 - in reply to #9177)
Subject: Re: The Definitive 1950s Reading Challenge
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Hahaha... DrNefario, the "You Must Read The Books In Order By Year" Police.

It's nice to see I'm not the only OCD here.

 

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DrNefario
Posted 2015-01-07 2:59 AM (#9194 - in reply to #9162)
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That's half the fun. Although I'm already struggling with 1951.
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jwharris28
Posted 2015-01-07 7:50 AM (#9195 - in reply to #9162)
Subject: Re: The Definitive 1950s Reading Challenge
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I picked The Martian Chronicles for 1950 and started listening to it. In the introduction Bradbury admits that the stories aren't science fiction, and he's excited to think his Martians are like Egyptians. The stories are quite engaging, but they have both a mundane and unreal quality at the same time. They are more like The Twilight Zone than traditional science fiction of the 1950s. And their appeal is psychological. They probably were popular because of their human angle and not because of Mars or space travel.
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pizzakarin
Posted 2015-01-07 12:33 PM (#9204 - in reply to #9162)
Subject: Re: The Definitive 1950s Reading Challenge
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Great challenge! As much as I complain about the flaws of books that don't hold up well to time, I love seeing how science fiction has changed and grown. I like to see the seeds of concepts that were refined and developed later. (and I like to think that I'm "well read" )

Edited by pizzakarin 2015-01-07 12:34 PM
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jwharris28
Posted 2015-01-07 1:03 PM (#9205 - in reply to #9204)
Subject: Re: The Definitive 1950s Reading Challenge
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While listening to The Martian Chronicles I keep thinking: Does it hold up, will it appeal to new young readers, does it compare to literary classics from the same time period. I recently read The Stranger by Albert Camus and Breakfast at Tiffany's, books that come before and after The Martian Chronicles. Both were outstanding. The Martian Chronicles isn't as good, but it's close. Bradbury anticipates a lot of philosophical concerns that emerge in the 1960s - like respect for the environment and how destructive our society is. He also seems to question the whole final frontier mentality.

I'm listening to The Martian Chronicles read by Stephen Hoye, and his narration is a 10 in my book. He's showcasing Bradbury's writing in a way I never could. There's a lot to this book. And I'm curious how future generations will read and interpret it. Bradbury is talking about the 1940s and looking to the future with a certain philosophical questioning, so I wonder if the future will understand him.
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jwharris28
Posted 2015-01-11 9:41 PM (#9257 - in reply to #9162)
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I finished The Martian Chronicles, which I listened to read by Stephen Hoye. The reading was excellent. I'm not sure if I would have been that impressed if I had just read the book myself, but Hoye's reading just made the book for me. The characters sounded like actors in old 1940s movies. I was damn impressed with The Martian Chronicles. I wish I had taken notes, but in some ways, Bradbury touch on dozens of science fictional themes that would be explored in later science fiction books.

Looking at the 1951 books for my February read is going to be a hard choice. I'm thinking I should give Foundation another chance. When I reread it several years back I was hugely disappointed. It just didn't have the sense of wonder I remember when I first read it 50 years ago. Actually, I decided to do another 1950 book, The Man Who Sold The Moon until Feburary.

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DrNefario
Posted 2015-01-12 7:41 AM (#9259 - in reply to #9162)
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I've started on Galactic Patrol, not expecting to get much from it. It's kind of a pulpy adventure far too fond of exclamation marks.

The early years of the 50s seem to be full of collections and fix-ups of stories from the 40s and 30s. The reason I have the Doc Smith is because it was nominated for the Retro Hugo for 1938, last year. I guess it's the dawn of the paperback era, and they're busy raiding the back-catalogues, but it does make the 50s the right place to start a book-based overview like this.

I'm leaning towards The Green Hills of Earth for 1951, but Foundation is the only one I currently own. It's only two or three years since I read Foundation, though, and I'm not ready for a re-read.
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jwharris28
Posted 2015-01-12 8:16 AM (#9260 - in reply to #9259)
Subject: Re: The Definitive 1950s Reading Challenge
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I just can't handle Doc Smith anymore. Many of the "novels" of the early 1950s came from specialty publishers like Gnome and Fantasy presses. Foundation was jarring to me when I reread it several years ago because the short stories were so different. At least with The Martian Chronicles, the stories are worked into a consistent theme. Of the novels from 1950, I think The Day of the Triffids has had the most lasting power. It's still a gripping story. I love Farmer in the Sky by Heinlein, but I'm not sure how many people read it today. The Heinlein story was original in 1950, so it seems more modern than the others, plus Heinlein was always more modern in his writing than the general run of science fiction writers back then.

Cosmic Engineers, which if I remember right, if from the late 1930s, and is primitive like Galactic Patrol. Seetee Ship is going the same way. The Voyage of the Space Beagle holds up a little better because it's built around the classic short story, "The Black Destroyer" which anticipates the horror film Alien.

I've read all the 1950 books a long time ago, and I'm only familiar with the 7-8 I've reread in the last couple decades. I loved I, Robot in my teens, but it just didn't hold up in my 50s. I haven't reread Fury or The Dreaming Jewels, so I can't say how they have fared.
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Administrator
Posted 2015-01-12 8:51 AM (#9261 - in reply to #9260)
Subject: Re: The Definitive 1950s Reading Challenge
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jwharris28 - 2015-01-12 8:16 AM

Of the novels from 1950, I think The Day of the Triffids has had the most lasting power. It's still a gripping story.


I just read The Day of the Triffids and it was indeed gripping. Really pleased with that one. It's my first book for this challenge though I skipped 1950 so I'll have to go back one year to get back on track. I read it before this challenge started but I'm going to count it. I promise I'll read the rest in order after I get my 1950 book in

I'm thinking of reading Needle or perhaps The Martian Chronicles now I've heard from Jim.
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jwharris28
Posted 2015-01-12 8:54 AM (#9262 - in reply to #9261)
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I read Needle a couple years ago for the Classic Science Fiction book club and it was pretty good. Positive take on alien possession.
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DrNefario
Posted 2015-01-12 4:04 PM (#9263 - in reply to #9162)
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I wonder if the catastrophe books are less of a stretch because they are contemporary novels, rather than projecting a distant future that now seems very dated? I read On the Beach last year, for the End of the World challenge, and found it very readable, and I also picked up The Death of Grass for the same reason, but ended up not using it. It should come in handy later in this challenge.

I'm surprised that I, Robot doesn't stand up. It's about 30 years since I read it, but I thought the logic-puzzle nature of it might hold up better than Foundation.
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Administrator
Posted 2015-01-12 4:40 PM (#9264 - in reply to #9263)
Subject: Re: The Definitive 1950s Reading Challenge
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So I know E. E. "Doc" Smith is not great literature and I don't blame anyone who finds him unreadable, because, well, he really is by adult standards.  And yet, there's something about those old pulp stories that I just love.  I did a blog post about my love of Pulp some years ago that I thought I'd share here.  I had a lot of fun writing it.  In Praise of Pulp  When I'm in the mood for it nothing scratches that itch like a good pulp novel.

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jwharris28
Posted 2015-01-12 5:15 PM (#9265 - in reply to #9264)
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Dave, there's a whole range of pulp fiction writing. Raymond Chandler wrote beautifully. And Edgar Rice Burroughs was a very good story teller. Ditto for Zane Grey. But poor Doc Smith is just horribly dated and poorly written. I understand that some people still love his stuff, but I think for the modern reader who isn't used to the joys of pulp fiction, he would be a poor recommendation.

By the way, I loved Before the Golden Age when I read it a long time ago. The writing varied greatly, but it did have a kind of vitality. And even Smith has a big sense of wonder, but his stories and characters are just too basic, and too political incorrect for our modern times. His style is closer to Dime novel era writing, or boys books from the early part of the century.

As a kid I loved The Skylark of Space series, but by the time I got to the Lensman series, I was too old to really enjoy them. But that's not saying you still can't. I know a lot of guys who just love the old pulps.
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dustydigger
Posted 2015-01-14 5:11 AM (#9282 - in reply to #9162)
Subject: Re: The Definitive 1950s Reading Challenge
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Jim,may I just take a minute to thank you for your fantastic lists,a worthy and welcome addition to our WWEnds already fabulous resources. I well realize the dilemmas of producing such lists,the warring between what is academically and historically important(which can be dull)and those dear old nostalgic favourites frrom our youth(many of which we dare not reread in case of embarrassment or disappointment.) and all shades of types in between. You did a splendid job. I was very gratified that out of the 12 books per decade that you think may survive a century I had read 10 or 11 from the 50s to 80s lists,then failed miserably with the 90s,only 2 read! Afraid I am living in the past as far as what SF I read! I was away from the SF genre as a whole for several decades and am methodically working my way through Hugos and Nebulas etc filling in the gaps of ignorance. Many of those books appear on your lists.
Thank you for joinng in the discussions. I am recovering from surgery on my knee and now a truly epic dose of cold which of course has descended to my lungs,so I am wiped out,and time sitting at a computer is limited,but I hope to chat to you sometimes!
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DrNefario
Posted 2015-01-14 7:18 AM (#9283 - in reply to #9162)
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I thought I'd read exactly 9 of the 12 headliners for every decade, but it turned out I'd only read 8 in the 80s, which I would have said was my era.

I'm still struggling through Galactic Patrol for 1950. I can't love the pulpy style, I'm afraid. It just pushes me out of the story. I'm wishing I'd picked up Martian Chronicles when I saw it in the library the other day, rather than trying to stick to books I already have.
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jwharris28
Posted 2015-01-14 8:41 AM (#9287 - in reply to #9282)
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Thanks Dusty. Your high hit rate shows you've been reading science fiction for a long time. And I think it shows that certain books are emerging as the favorites, both for scholars and nostalgic fans.

By the way, I'm open to suggestions for books I might have missed. I used awards, best-of lists, scholar books, books about science fiction, ISFDB, and my own memory to try to identify the standout books, but I'm sure I could have missed some.

Colds do that to me too, get into my lungs and cause bronchitis, and I'm trapped for 10-12 days waiting to get better and can't do anything. I avoid people this time of year. Hope you get better soon.
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jwharris28
Posted 2015-01-14 8:45 AM (#9288 - in reply to #9283)
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DrNafario, why don't you switch to The Martian Chronicles then. I'd be curious what you think. I highly recommend the audio book with Stephen Hoye reading. It makes The Martian Chronicles come alive. It still has its period problems too, and it's aging in strange ways. However, I think it captures the essence of the science fiction fan of the 1940s and their thinking about the future. Through the course of the stories Bradbury brings up many science fictional ideas that later writers will devote whole novels to writing.
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DrNefario
Posted 2015-01-14 10:49 AM (#9289 - in reply to #9162)
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I do intend to fill in all of the headliners at some point, so I will read the Martian Chronicles sooner or later. I just wanted to get the challenge underway with what I had. Also, with a collection, I prefer to have an ebook. It makes it easier to dip in and out without losing my place.
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justifiedsinner
Posted 2015-01-14 11:08 AM (#9290 - in reply to #9162)
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Hi, Jim thanks for all your work on the lists. Of the headliners I'm done with the 50s, missing one from the 60s and two each from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Just when I thought I was out they pull me back in.
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jwharris28
Posted 2015-01-15 12:08 PM (#9296 - in reply to #9162)
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Why does some science fiction become dated? DrNafario says the pulp style pushes him out of Galactic Patrol.

What strange is I dont think outdated science has any effect on dating science fiction. But something does kill off science fiction books, either they are forgotten because they were never that interesting, or something became annoying about them that stops readers. Racism and sexism has killed a lot of older books. There was a popular boys book series by Roy Rockwood called the Great Marvel series (1906-1935) that featured science fiction adventures of exploring the solar system. Why dont people remember them like they do Tom Swift? (Even though Tom Swift is all but forgotten too.) Most comments on the web is because of the racism.

Poor E. E. Doc Smith is almost unreadable today except by hardcore pulp fiction fans. In fact, there is damn little science fiction before 1939 thats still popular. But age isnt the factor. The Time Machine (1895) and When Worlds Collide (1933) are still compelling reads.

Jim
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